Dissenters, the general name in England for those Protestants who differ from the established church in doctrine or ceremonies. The origin of dissent was in the reign of Edward VI. John Hooper was appointed bishop of Gloucester, but refused to swear obedience to the metropolitan or wear the episcopal robes. His views were opposed by Cranmer and Ridley, and he was imprisoned for preaching them, but had many followers, who were called nonconformists. During the reign of Elizabeth several acts were passed against dissent, especially the "Act of Uniformity" (1558), which enforced severe penalties against any one conducting public service in any other manner than that prescribed by the " Book of Common Prayer." These acts were not altered under James I., and under Charles I. dissent was punished with increased severity. Upon the fall of the latter episcopacy was proscribed, and at first the Presbyterians, and afterward the Independents, had the ascendancy. Episcopacy was restored with Charles II., and a new act of uniformity was passed in 16G2. The "declarations of indulgence" of Charles II. and James II. gave temporary relief, but it was not until the revolution of 1088 that dissenters enjoyed any real toleration. After this the penal laws were gradually ameliorated.
The test and corporation acts were repealed in 182 admitting them to active citizenship; in 1836; the marriage law was modified so as to allow marriages to be solemnized in the presence of the district registrar; in I860 an act was passed for the admission of children of parents not connected with the church of England to the endowed schools, where such connection is not expressly required by the endowment; in 1867 the former religious restrictions as to the lord chancellor of Ireland were removed, and it was made lawful for judicial or corporate offi- cers to attend their places of worship in their official robes, and a new oath was provided in place of the former oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration; religious tests in the universities were abolished as to all lav students in 1871. The disabilities of dissenters at present are little more than such as are necessarily involved in the existence of the established church. In the 17th century the great classes of dissenters were the Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists, and Quakers. The most numerous now are the Methodists, who did not begin as avowed dissenters, and some of whom do not now avow dissent.
There are several subdivisions of Methodists, and many minor bodies which may be considered as subdivisions of the leading denominations previously mentioned. - In Scotland the Presbyterian church is established by law, and before the separation of the Free church the largest class of dissenters was that generally called Seceders, originating in a separation from the established church in 173G. They were divided into Burghers, Anti-Burghers, Original Burghers, and Original Seceders. The most of the Burghers and Anti-Burghers united in 1820 under the name of the " United Associate Synod of the Seces-sion Church; "and in 1847 this body united with the Relief church, which had seceded from the establishment in 1752, the aggregate body taking the name of the "United Presbyterian Church." In 1843 a very large secession, led by Dr. Chalmers, formed the Free church of 'Scotland, now much the largest body of dissenters there. These bodies differ from the church of Scotland only in regard to the relation of the church to the civil government.
There are also many Congregationalists or Independents and Baptists in Scotland. - The disestablishment of the Episcopal church in Ireland in 1868 has made the term dissenters no longer applicable there.